RIGHT LIVELIHOOD WARD FOUNDATION-PRESS RELEASE, STOCKHOLM, OCTOBER 7, 1998
Prize for U.S expert who says curing cancer is wrong strategy
Prof. Samuel Epstein, A world-renowned authority on the causes of cancer and prevention of cancer and a scourge of the U.S cancer establishment, was named today as one of the 1998 winners of the Right Livelihood Award better know as the "Alternative Nobel Prize."
Epstein, who is a Professor of Occupational and Environmental medicine at the University of Illinois [at Chicago] and Chairman of the Cancer prevention Coalition, received the award for his "exemplary life of scholarship, wedded to activism on behalf of humanity". Since his book, The Politics of Cancer, was first published in 1979, Epstein has campaigned against the environmental pollution which he has shown to be the cause of much avoidable cancer. He has argued strongly for a strategy of cancer prevention rather then putting all the emphasis on cures, which have not stopped cancer rates rising. In stressing the responsibility of environmental pollution for much avoidable cancer and in campaigning for its phasing-out, Epstein - and in recent years the Cancer Prevention Coalition which he founded - have put pressure on both governments and corporations to take responsibility for product safety and environmental protection. Epstein has thereby made an incomparable contribution to the prevention of a disease that continues to be responsible for a quarter of the deaths in industrial countries and is increasing worldwide.
Three other recipients share the US$230,000 prize with Epstein. They are: The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), the first international citizens' network of its kind, founded in 1979;, Juan Pablo Orrego and the Grupo de Acciónpor el Biobío (GABB) in Chile, Katarina Kruhonja and Vesna Terselic of Croatia and their respective organizations: the Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights in Osijek, and the Anti-War Campaign of Croatia, based in Zagreb.
Epstein will receive a One-Fourth share of the prize money when the awards are presented at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on December 9, , the day before the official Nobel prize.
Aims of the RLA
Kerstin Bennett, Administrative Director
Samuel Epstein was born in England in 1926, graduated as a doctor and rose to work as a consultant pathologist at major institutions and hospitals at London University before emigrating to the US in 1960. For ten years he worked at the Children's Cancer Research Foundation and Harvard in Boston before being awarded a distinguished professorship at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University at Cleveland. In 1976 he took his current position of Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois in Chicago where he set up the first laboratories of toxicology and carcinogenesis in the United States. He has authored or co-authored ten books and over 250 articles and has received a number of awards from academic and environmental organisations. He has frequently broadcast on radio and TV nationally and internationally.
Epstein has emerged as the leading international champion of cancer prevention, and of winning the war against cancer by preventing avoidable exposures to environmental carcinogens in air, water, food and the work place.
He has conducted extensive basic and applied research in experimental pathology, on toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic affects of environmental and occupational contaminants, with particular reference to industrial petrochemicals. His scientific publications on the issue of environmental cancer date from the early 1960s, his first book was "The Mutagenicity of Pesticides" (1971), and his first listed broadcast, on CBS TV, was in 1969 on the hazards of environmental pollutants. His best-known book, "The Politics of Cancer" (1978) won the Notable Book and other Awards. An updated edition was published in October 1998. Epstein has also played an important role in professional societies, especially of the more activist kind, and acted as an adviser and legislation-drafter to a number of Congressional committees.
Epstein's most recent surge of activity arose from a major initiative on February 4th 1992, when 65 eminent doctors and scientists, co-ordinated by Epstein, released a statement on the 20th anniversary of President Nixon's launch of "the war against cancer". The statement was headed "Losing the War on Cancer After 20 Years". It noted an overall increase in cancer incidence since 1950 of 44%, with much higher increases in some kinds of cancer. The statement blamed this increase unequivocally on the failure of the government particularly the "cancer establishment" - the Federal National Cancer Institute (FNCI) and the "philantrophic" - the American Cancer Society (ACS) to tackle environmental and occupational cancer and to prevent cancer. This was more important than blaming lifestyles or funding ever more research into basic science and "cures", which have not significantly increased five-year survival rates. The statement also called for a number of fundamental reforms at the NCI and ACS, to align them with a preventative approach.
Out of this initiative was born the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC), which is proposing a comprehensive strategy of outreach, education andadvocacy to establish prevention as the nation's top cancer policy. The longer-term objective of CPC is to win the war against cancer by reducing modern epidemic cancer rates to their pre-1940 levels. CPC's Board, of which Epstein is the Chairman, includes the past Executive Director of Citizen Action, Ira Arhook, the US's largest consumer and environmental organisation with 3 million members in 33 states, two cancer-environment organisations and some cancer specialists.
Epstein and the CPC are blunt in their criticism of government bodies, such as the US Department of Agricultureand the Environmental Protection Agency, for failing to protect the consumer against harmful foods and chemicals. And they accuse the NCI and the American Cancer Society of ignoring the scope for preventing the disease, while misleading the public with claims that they can find cures if they are given more money. Epstein's book (with David Steinman) "The Breast Cancer Prevention Program", a second edition of which was published by Macmillan in October 1998. Its very title is a challenge to the NCI, which says that the prevention of breast cancer is not possible. In March 1998 Epstein set out his critique of the US cancer establishment in Congressional testimony, as a result of which he was asked back to help plan hearings by another Committee on reform of the National Cancer Institute, whose policies, according to Epstein, have "in no small measure been a critical factor in escalating cancer rates over recent decades".
CPC has developed a variety of educational and advocacy programmes to operate at both local and national levels. These include: (i) Consumer labelling/Right to Know; (ii) Citizen Petitions; and (iii) National Policy. Other programmes are being developed and will deal with avoidable causes of childhood, ovarian and breast cancers.
The "Right to Know" programme is based partly on a book, "The Safe Shoppers' Bible", co-authored by Epstein, which evaluates some 3,500 consumer products - food, cosmetics and toiletries and household products - for undisclosed carcinogenic ingredients and contaminants. The Programme includes meetings and the distribution of "Cancer Alerts" on common consumer products containing carcinogens, such as hot dogs and cosmetic talcum powder. In September 1995, the Cancer Prevention Coalition got wide media publicity when it announced, jointly with Ralph Nader, a "Dirty Dozen" list of US consumer products containing carcinogenic or other toxic ingredients by research and providing scientific information to government regulatory agencies and the public. Two months later they were in the news again with a study by Epstein concluding that milk from cows injected with recombinantbovine growth hormone (rBGH) increases the human risk of breast and coloncancers. The CPC has now published about twenty "Cancer Prevention Alerts" and is also producing a newsletter. CPC has also started providing information on the Internet. It has participated in a dozen regional and national conferences on health/cancerissues, and gives numerous workshops. The "Bible" is to be published in anew edition in 1999. Epstein notes that "several global industries have since reformulated their products which are now safer."
The "Citizen Petition" programme takes advantage of US citizens' right to petition federal agencies to take action, such as labelling or banning a hazardous product. If the petition meets certain requirements, the agency must comply within a given period or face legal challenge. CPC has submitted four such petitions to the US Food and Drug Administration, calling for (a) labels on cosmetic talc towarn about the risks of ovarian cancer; (b) a ban on lindane-based shampoo to treat children with head-lice; (c) labels on nitrite-preserved hot-dogs to warn of childhood brain cancer and leukaemia; and (d) a medical warning of breastcancer risks to be sent to all women with silicone gel and polyurethane breast implants.
Under the "National Policy" programme, CPC issues Press Releases on key concerns relating to national policy on cancer prevention. Some of these have been issued with the endorsement of other national public interest groups, so that they represent the views of several million citizens. In 1997/98 six press releases were issued, covering issues which included hormonal beef and milk.
Epstein and CPC have amassed substantial evidence that milk from cows treated with synthetic growth hormones, and meat from cattle treated with sex hormones, are carcinogenic. The "Los Angeles Times" ran a Commentary/Editorial from Epstein on the beef issue in 1997, when he was engaged in giving testimony in support to the European Commission and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in support of the EU ban on hormone-treated beef. Epstein also gave evidence to the UK Parliamentary Agriculture and Health Select Committee against proposals bythe Ministry of Agriculture to allow the use of the hormone, BST, in milk products, against an EU moratorium. While the WTO initially ruled against the EU, the WTO appellate ruling reversed this decision and came out in favour of the EU ban. The CPC publications and testimony were influential both in this decision and in the EU decision to declare a moratorium on hormonal milk.